Data show continued COVID-19 strain on Jennie Stuart

For the week of Dec. 18 through 24, the hospital reached record highs for the total number of inpatient beds occupied by coronavirus patients and its overall proportion of COVID-19 patients.

This story is part of an occasional series from Hoptown Chronicle about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting Jennie Stuart Medical Center. See more coverage.

Updated hospital-level data released by the federal government on Monday shows a continued strain on Jennie Stuart Medical Center due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the week of Dec. 18 through 24, the hospital reached record highs for the total number of inpatient beds occupied by coronavirus patients and its overall proportion of COVID-19 patients.

During the week of Dec. 18, an average of 23% of all inpatient beds were occupied by coronavirus patients, up from 20% the week before. The percentage reached 23% once before — during the week of Nov. 20 — but has never exceeded that level, according to the data.

According to a framework developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, 20% is the threshold that indicates a hospital is under “extreme stress.” It’s a level Jennie Stuart has been at for five of the last six weeks, according to the data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This week’s update also shows that during the same time frame, an average of 50% of all adult patients treated at the hospital were COVID-19 patients — a record high. The highest the ratio ever previously reached was 48%, on Nov. 20.

Patients being treated for the virus require significantly more resources than others — specifically, staffing resources — so, having high levels of COVID-19 patients can present unique challenges, Beth McCraw, the hospital’s vice president of nursing and clinical services, previously told Hoptown Chronicle.

In order to meet the recent surge of coronavirus patients, the hospital has adjusted nurse-to-patient ratios, hired additional health care workers, evaluated elective procedures, redeployed staff to other areas of the hospital, increased the number of non-licensed support employees and hired additional paramedics to help in the emergency department, McCraw said.

As of Monday morning, the hospital was treating 23 patients for COVID-19, spokeswoman Selina Staub confirmed. Over the last week, the hospital has treated an average of 25 coronavirus patients per day.

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Julia Hunter | Hoptown Chronicle

Julia Hunter is co-founder and engagement editor of Hoptown Chronicle. She began her journalism career as a reporter and news editor at the Kentucky New Era and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she serves as the membership & communications director for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Reach her at julia@hoptownchronicle.org and find her on Twitter at @JuliaMHunter.